SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) For many children, it's the ultimate fantasy. For a few, it's about to become a reality. In August a newly refurbished building in Billund,Denmark, will open its doors to become the first ever "Lego school".
The fee-paying establishment is the brainchild of the toy manufacturer's billionaire owner, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, who hopes the school will help put the town in rural Jutland – a place Copenhageners refer to as Hicksville – on the map as the Capital of Children.
The International School of Billund will combine the international baccalaureate (IB) with the Danish school system and Lego's emphasis on creativity and play. Centred around "inquiry-based learning", the idea is that children are more motivated when they generate their own questions. As one prospective parent of the new school put it: "In the UK you're taught how to pass exams. In Scandinavia you're taught how to think."
The school's champions hope that by combining this free and easy approach to learning with Lego's research into child development and the international baccalaureate, pupils will have the tools to both "think" and "do" in their chosen careers.
The headteacher is British physicist-turned-international-school-tsar Richard Matthews, a seasoned head, having led schools all over the world from Botswana to Grimsby. As one of the few men in Denmark to wear a tie, he is referred to by some prospective parents as "Tie Man".
"Allowing time for creativity, play and getting into a state of flow is at the centre of Lego's philosophy and we'll be experimenting with this and other ideas in the timetabling," he said. "But we also have a responsibility — the children's education comes first and sometimes the old methods will be the best."
The UK debate about child-centred learning was revived on Monday when Liz Truss, the early years minister, complained to the Daily Mail that in nurseries she had "seen too many chaotic settings, where children are running around" in an environment with "no sense of purpose".
The new school in Billund is just one of a long line of projects in a town of 6,000 people sponsored by the Lego family. The family has also paid for an airport – the second largest in Denmark – and worked with the council to construct a church, community facilities, a library and a theatre.
The Kirk Kristiansens are the most famous dynasty in the country and Kjeld is the richest man in Denmark, but he still chooses to live and work in Billund. As well as supporting the drive to make his hometown the Capital of Children, he is chairman of the board of the Lego Foundation, an organisation funding research into child development and the psychology of play.
There has already been plenty of interest from parents, although some have expressed fears about the experimental nature of the venture. "I worry about using my children as guinea pigs," said one parent. "They're trying to do something quite different, so there are bound to be teething problems."
The school will open for three- to seven-year-olds in August, with pupils up to the 16 invited to join from 2015. The intake will be 50% Danish and 50% international.
The school will be subsidised, with the government paying two-thirds of fees and parents covering the remaining third, 3,000 Danish kroner a month (£344).
On a tour of the plot where the school will be, Matthews describes bike routes he intends to create, playgrounds to be built, a hexagonal music studio to be developed and the "Lego Lab" ("the amount of Lego we can have is obviously not an issue", he said). Kindergarten will be "one big adventure," he says, "things to climb up, crawl through, slide down and swing on as part of the environment. Lego is building something quite remarkable."
Lego's endorsement is enough to shore up the school financially andwith company profits up 40% last year and the owner's name attached, there's a sense that the venture will not be allowed to fail.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Bahraini security forces have raided a high school in the capital Manama, firing teargas at the students angry over the recent arrest of a fellow student.
Regime forces clashed with students protesting outside their school, located close to the US embassy in southern Manama, on Tuesday.
The students were angry over the arrest of 17-year-old student Hassan Humidan at the school on Monday.
Bahrainis have been staging peaceful anti-regime demonstrations since mid-February 2011 despite the ruling Al Khalifa regime’s heavy-handed crackdown.
The demonstrations are expected to escalate as the Persian Gulf kingdom is preparing to host the Formula One Grand Prix on April 19-21.
Over the past few days, thousands of Bahrainis have taken to the streets across the country to express opposition to the sporting event.
Bahrainis say Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, should cancel the event in Bahrain over the ongoing crackdown by the Al Khalifa regime on the peaceful protests.
Formula One is Bahrain’s premier international event. It was canceled in 2011 as a result of mass anti-regime protests in the country. However, the event went ahead in 2012 despite protests.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - A Bahraini protester has sustained head injuries in an attack by Saudi-backed security forces on an anti-regime demonstration in the kingdom.
The incident occurred on Saturday when Hussein Kazem al-Halal came under direct fire from regime forces in the village of Wadian, in the eastern town of Sitra.
The Bahraini youth was taken to a health center for treatment, as police surrounded the area.
Protesters in the island nation have been staging rallies in solidarity with political prisoners and against the upcoming Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix.
The Bahraini revolution began in mid-February 2011, when the people, inspired by the popular revolutions that toppled the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt, started holding massive demonstrations.
The Bahraini government promptly launched a brutal crackdown on the peaceful protests and called in Saudi-led Arab forces from neighboring Persian Gulf states.
Dozens of people have been killed in the crackdown, and the security forces have arrested hundreds, including doctors and nurses accused of treating injured revolutionaries.
The protesters say they will continue holding anti-regime demonstrations until their demand for the establishment of a democratically elected government is met.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: ON Islam
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Angelina Jolie plans to fund a newly opened girl’s school in Afghanistan with proceeds of a jewelry line that she helped to design, celebrity website E! News reported on Monday.
Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, will further fund the girls-only primary school in an area outside Kabul that has a high refugee population, E! News said in an exclusive report.
Jolie plans to expand her charitable budget with profits from the “Style of Jolie” jewelry line that she helped create with jewelry maker to the stars, Robert Procop.
“Beyond enjoying the artistic satisfaction of designing these jewels, we are inspired by knowing our work is also serving the mutual goal of providing for children in need,” Jolie was quoted as saying by E!
Procop’s website said the “first funds from our collaboration together have been dedicated to the Education Partnership for Children in Conflict, founded by Jolie.”
The particular school educates 200-300 girls and was opened in November, a plaque acknowledging Jolie’s previous contributions is visible in the building.
Jolie, an avid supporter of girl’s education in the country, also funded a female-only school in eastern Afghanistan that opened in 2010, according to the UNCHR.
According to the Style of Jolie website, the newly expanded collection includes versions of the black and gold necklace that the actress wore to the premiere of her 2010 Hollywood movie ‘Salt,’ a pear-shaped citrine and gold necklace, and rose gold and emerald tablet-shaped rings, earrings and bracelets. No price details have been released so far.
The jewelry will go on retail sale for the first time on April 4 through a Kansas City, Missouri, jewelry store named Tivol, the shop has announced according to Reuters.
Procop told E! that it was “an honor to have the opportunity to be part of creating this line with Angie, as we both believe every child has right to an education.”
A noble cause gone awry
Jolie is not the first celebrity to open schools in faraway places. Both Oprah Winfrey and Madonna have funded the building of schools in South Africa and Malawi in the past six years, although both ran into trouble.
Madonna’s project provoked controversy over costs and mismanagement, while a staff member at Winfrey’s school was arrested on charges of assault and abuse of students.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Arabiya
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Thirteen children have been killed after a fire, apparently caused by an electrical fault, engulfed an Islamic school dormitory in Myanmar's largest city.
The dead in Tuesday's fire in Yangon, all boys, died of suffocation in the early morning, witnesses and officials said.
Police officer Thet Lwin said the fire was triggered by an overheated inverter "and not due to any criminal activity".
The building housed a mosque and a religious school where children were staying while taking a summer class. Local residents said the victims were believed to be orphans.
Riot police were deployed nearby as some Muslims gathering outside the charred building feared the fire was linked to sectarian violence that has shaken the nation.
Neighbours and witnesses said it appeared the crowded dormitory locked its doors due to heightened security concerns.
"It seemed the boys didn't get a chance to get away because the doors were locked because of the unstable situation," a resident said.
The blaze comes against a backdrop of heightened Buddhist-Muslim tensions in Myanmar. Forty-three people have been killed in sectarian violence since March 20.
Police called for calm and promised to establish a committee - including Muslim leaders - to look into the cause of the fire.
Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay, reporting from Bangkok in nearby Thailand, said that there have been reports of some muslim communities within Yangon, have been trying to arm themselves for defending against any future attacks.
"The tension is very high and I guess that's why we've seen authorities come very quickly after this fire and say that it was started when the transformer overheated," said Hay, emphasising that the authorities were concerned that this incident could spark further unrest between the Muslim and Buddhist communities.
A police officer said the 13 dead in Tuesday's blaze were among more than 70 people sleeping at the school when the fire broke out.
"The rest of the children were rescued," he said.
The Myanmar Police Force reported on its official Facebook page that the victims died from burns or smoke inhalation.
"According to the investigation by township police officers, the fire was caused by excessively high [electric] voltage," it added.
According to official records, electrical faults and overheating are major causes of fires in Myanmar's largest city.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- On her first visit to a brothel in South Sudan, Haley Wright was told in advance only that they were going to bring a woman some medicine for her child. But upon walking into the tiny corrugated metal hut, Wright knew immediately what she was seeing. The woman inside was just over 18. Outside she saw young girls between the ages of 10 and 14 also living and working in the brothel, servicing the clients who refused to wear condoms, which are usually insisted upon by older women.
Zali Idy, 12, in her bedroom in the remote village of Hawkantaki, Niger. Zali was married in 2011. One third and more of all girls are married in 42 countries, according to the U.N. Population Fund, referring to females under the age of 18. The highest number of cases occurs in some of the poorest countries, the agency figures show, with the West African nation of Niger bottom of the list with 75 percent of girls married before they turn 18. (Jerome Delay/AP)
“It really was the first time I felt evil, in my whole life—tangible evil. It was horrific,” she told me over coffee at a hotel in Juba, South Sudan’s capital city. It was only her second day of work and after about 30 minutes, Wright, overwhelmed, had to leave. “As soon as I could get to a phone I called my mom and I sobbed to her across the line. I was inconsolable.”
Haley Wright, now 28, didn’t plan to move to South Sudan to work with prostitutes when she left her native Columbus, Ohio nearly a decade ago. Though she says she’s wanted to work with adolescent girls since she was that age herself, Haley’s path was circuitous. In pursuit of a dream of becoming a foreign correspondent, she moved to London to study journalism. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she worked briefly for CBS news, but found herself moving between jobs. So at 24, Haley decided to take advantage of an opportunity to stay with a friend in South Sudan, and left for Juba.
She spent the next six months of volunteering for a local non-governmental organization in Juba, Confident Children out of Conflict (CCC). The organization was started in 2007 to help street children who would come before and after school for food and a safe place to spend their time and leave their belongings. Thanks to funding from international aid agencies, CCC now houses nearly 40 children and covers the school fees for 600. These are children, who, while not orphans, would otherwise not be in school. The goal is to keep the boys off the streets and the girls out of the brothels.
But as CCC has grown, so has the number of prostitutes in Juba city, from around 1,800 (including 200 children) in 2010, to nearly 4,500 adults and more than 500 children today, according to Wright.
Local nonprofits like CCC are gaining favor in the development field as part of a larger shift towards community based organizations (CBOs). The shift has resulted from disillusionment with traditional models—such as USAID and World Vision—because of the perception that they are inefficient bureaucracies and introduce distortions into local economies. Unlike large institutions with rigid procedures, CBOs can focus on overlooked issues and respond and adjust to rapidly changing contexts, such as sudden violence or political shifts.
Wright is far from the only young woman who favors using community-based approaches to maximize flexibility. In 2010, Sasha Fisher, 24, started Spark MicroGrants, which gives small amounts of money, typically around $3,000, directly to communities to fund social impact projects, which they are required to design, develop, and implement themselves.
The idea is to mobilize communities around an issue of their choice because they are the best equipped to decide what they need—and because that way the recipients become invested in their own development. “We’ve designed the Spark model to be flexible.” Fisher explains. “Spark’s model is a process which can be replicated anywhere, but it varies according to the local population’s needs and decisions.”
Spark takes the flexibility and demand-driven stance of local NGOs and seeks to improve and expand upon it. To date, Spark has partnered with 46 communities in Rwanda and Uganda. A total of 34 projects—ranging from latrines, to electricity lines, to a honey cooperative—have been completed, and 12 are in the planning process. None have failed.
Fisher argues that not only is Spark’s approach effective and low risk, the process also encourages other communal benefits, such as reducing tensions by bringing together diverse communities, empowering women, and making leadership structures more democratic. Though it is too early to assess Spark’s long run impact, all of the community members I spoke with cited greater unity and improved communal relations as a result of Spark’s micro-granting process.
For Haley Wright, brothels were just the beginning of her work with vulnerable girls in South Sudan. Walking through the largest slum in Juba in early March, Wright calmly lists the alarmingly common forms of torture she’s researching: the binding and brutal raping of sex workers to the point of death, coating condoms with menthol cream so that they burn women’s skin internally during sex, and men using their fingers to scratch women inside until they bleed, among other horrors. The project, commissioned by the French Embassy, is to study child exploitation in order to develop a child protection strategy for South Sudan.
“While I pour myself completely into this work, the truth is, I am a foreigner here,” she says. “The only way it works is at the community level—to empower people to sustain projects because they’re the ones who are going to be here long term.”
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Adam Lanza left a home stuffed with weaponry and carried out the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in a 154-bullet barrage that took less than five minutes, investigators said Thursday in the first detailed account of his surroundings and troubled state of mind.
Search warrants from the second-worst school shooting in American history revealed that the home Lanza shared with his mother in Newtown, Conn., was a veritable arsenal: Authorities found at least nine knives, three Samurai swords, two guns and a 7-foot, wood-handled pole with a blade on one side and a spear on the other.
Authorities also recovered a National Rifle Association certificate, seven of Lanza’s journals, drawings that he made and books from the house, including an NRA guide to the basics of pistol shooting.
The warrants offered a thorough look at the environment in which Lanza lived before he shot his mother, Nancy, to death and drove to Sandy Hook on the morning of Dec. 14. Twenty first-graders and six teachers and staff were killed before Lanza shot himself to death with the 155th bullet.
An FBI report included in the search warrants said that Lanza rarely left home, considered himself a shut-in and was an avid gamer who played “Call of Duty,” a first-person shooter game. Lanza considered the elementary school his “life,” the papers said.
Among other items seized from the home were a holiday card containing a check from his mother to buy a firearm, an article from The New York Times about a 2008 school shooting at Northern Illinois University and three photographs of what appeared to be a dead person covered with plastic and blood.
Other books included “Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s” and “Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Mind of an Autistic Savant.”
At the school, Lanza fired the 154 rounds from a Bushmaster .223-model rifle and the final bullet from a Glock 10mm handgun to take his own life, said Stephen Sedensky, the chief prosecutor investigating the shooting.
Police recovered nine 30-round magazines for the Bushmaster that Lanza took to the school. Three of the magazines had a full 30 rounds still in them.
Among school shootings in the United States, the death toll from Newtown is second only to the 32 people killed at Virginia Tech in 2007.
The attack touched off a nationwide debate about gun control, and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy used the release of the warrants to call for stricter gun laws.
“We knew that these weapons were legally purchased under our current laws,” Malloy said. “I don’t know what more we can need to know before we take decisive action to prevent gun violence. The time to act is now.”
On Wednesday, a judge granted a request from prosecutors to withhold some information in the records, including a witness name, credit card information, telephone numbers and serial numbers.
Lanza used a Bushmaster .223-caliber XM15-E2S rifle with a 30-round magazine to shoot the victims at the school, authorities have said.
Authorities also found the Glock 10mm semiautomatic pistol and a Sig-Sauer 9mm semiautomatic pistol in the school, one of which Lanza used to kill himself. In the car outside, police found a shotgun.
All those weapons were legally owned by the mother, authorities have said. Enough public blame and anger has been directed at her that she was left out of many of the memorials and shrines to the Newtown victims.
There have been reports that Lanza was obsessed with other mass killers, including Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in a shooting and bomb attack in Norway two years ago.
A law enforcement official told NBC News last month that Lanza had collected material on previous mass shootings, although the source said there was no indication that it played a role in the school massacre.
Police told NBC News in February that investigators were still a long way from determining Lanza’s motive. Police said then that they hoped to have a report on the shooting finished by June.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The oppression dealt to the highest ranked woman in Islam has been carried out by a dual force. Following the death of her father and God's Last Messenger (peace be upon him and his progeny), the sect of the hypocrites usurped her entitlement to Fadak and carried out an attack on the home of Lady Fatima (peace be upon her). However, the historical context of these individuals allows observers to accept their actions because they complement their previous animosity towards the Prophet Muhammad and his family. When it came to many of the so-called "companions" of the Prophet, no effort was made to conceal their blatant hatred towards the Prophet's Family despite a divine decree establishing love for the Prophet and His family as compulsory. "Say: I do not ask of you any reward for it (the deliverance of the Message) but love for my near relatives." (42:23)
Indeed, we remember the sacrifice and loyalty of Imam Hassan (peace be upon him) and the revolutionary martyrdom of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) in the forsaken fields of Karbala. Rarely, if ever, do we consider: how were these individuals cultivated into men of God? Is it not because their mother was the leading woman of the worlds? Lady Fatima al-Zahra (peace be upon her) is the greatest symbol and most perfect emblem of politeness and humanity, chastity and piety, and bravery and forbearance in the Path of God.
The Holy Prophet refused to allow the marriage of Lady Fatima to occur in the absence of a Divine decree, and when he was asked to explain, He stated, "Maryam was the lady of the women of her time, but my daughter Fatimah is the lady of the whole world's women, from the first to the last." (The World's Most Outstanding Lady: Fatima az-Zahra) The status and rank of Lady Fatima was so lofty and safeguarded that the only possible companion for her would be the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (peace be upon him). Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) explains why the name Fatima was given to the highest ranking woman of Islam, "Because she and her followers (Shiites) are protected from Hell. [And] Had Amir Al-Mu'mineen not married her, no man on Earth from Adam on would have been suitable for her until the Day of Rising." (Fatima the Gracious)
Lady Fatima's life and death were so exalted and sublime in virtue and piety that all lessons of life and grandeur should be taken from her. Lady Fatima is a source of guidance for all Muslims, and her attributes mirror those of her father and her husband and her sons and grandsons. The status afforded to her is recognized by all Muslims, and even those who stood against her and in direct violation of God praised her qualities. Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, has narrated many of the virtues of Lady Fatima, and these traditions are prominently featured in the books of the other Islamic sects. For example, Aisha narrated, "I have not seen a person more similar to the Prophet's appearance, conduct, guidance, and speech, whether sitting or standing, than Fatima." (Mustadrak al-Hakim)
In the current state of the Muslim world, and the advent of various sorts of spiritual diseases among Muslims, the personality of Lady Fatima is increasingly becoming a refuge for those who remain sincerely believing and hold true the Prophetic Mission. As Muslims continue to seek out happiness, contentedness, and true love towards God, we must return to the root of such traits, and these characteristics are manifested in the Prophet Muhammad and his Purified Family. In particular, Lady Fatima stands as the eternal symbol of worship, an emblem of sincere love towards God, and an exalted example of patience and charity.
Through the school of Fatima, we can learn to cultivate our own selves into Muslims who have earned the honor of being labeled as true followers (Shias). By studying the life of the most perfect woman in Islam, individuals begin to construct for themselves a life of independence, guidance, and direction because she emphasized these values and beliefs through her devotion and love for Islam.
While the life of Lady Fatima is an example for all Muslims, she is the unequivocal role model for all women regardless of their religion or creed. Like her mother Lady Khadija, Lady Fatima presented the first chance for women to built an Islamic character and free them from the binds of ignorance and inferiority. Who other than Lady Fatima has taught women how to preserve their honor and purity? Was it not Lady Fatima who showed the world how to rise against oppression, usurpation, and injustice? Was it not Lady Fatima who personified charity and mercy towards the destitute by giving away her meals and clothing to others while knowing this would cause hardship on her?
The worship and piety of Lady Fatima is rivaled by no one before her or after her. Imam Hassan said, "On Friday night, I saw my mother standing in her arch of prayer. She was continuously kneeling and performing prostration till the dawn broke. I would hear her pray for the faithful men and women, but she did not at all pray for herself. I said, 'O mother, why did you not pray for yourself like you prayed for others?' She replied, 'My son, first the neighbor, and then your own house.'" Indeed, Lady Fatima was worshipping and praying during the night, but she even prayed for other people before herself.
The lessons drawn from Lady Fatima's life are innumerable and illustrious. She continued the Prophetic legacy of struggling in the way of God. While her struggles were not in the battlefield, her Jihad has been registered in history as an inimitable legacy of a woman. Furthermore, she planted the seeds of resistance against the tyranny of the usurpers and their misguided adherents. The school of Fatima is the true school of Islam and the perfect guidance for Muslims, because it rejects oppression and upholds the traditions, values, and original teachings of the Pure Prophet of Islam.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- THE Bhandari Modern Public School can be approached only by technological downshifting. Full-sized taxis cannot penetrate the narrow, crowded streets, so you have to switch to a tuk-tuk. Soon the streets become alleyways, so you switch to a bicycle-rickshaw.
The Brahmpuri slum in New Delhi is an energetic place, home to migrants, Muslims and other marginals. A barber with a cut-throat razor and a bucket of dirty water shaves clients on the pavement. Factories hum in people’s front rooms. Animals and children are everywhere: buffaloes pulling carts, white ponies doing nothing in particular (they are popular for wedding ceremonies), children hawking bicycle pumps and washing powder.
The school, despite its name, is private, and it is a miracle of compression: floor upon floor of children, 25 to a class, crowded into a narrow concrete block. It is also a miracle of order: the children wear uniforms and stand up to greet visitors. One classroom is decorated with bright pictures and perky slogans such as: “We will get more than 80% in maths.” The teacher worked for Infosys, a giant IT firm, before finding her vocation. Other classrooms are drabber. Dr Bhandari, the school’s owner and headmaster, is clearly a shrewd businessman. He runs a fancier school next door, decorated with images of Mickey Mouse. He has an impressive collection of certificates. He uses an interpreter to explain that one of his school’s strengths is that it is “English medium”.
Dr Bhandari’s school is part of a growing movement to provide private schools for the poor. There are no reliable national figures, but a new report for the India Institute, a think-tank, found that 65% of children in Patna, a fairly representative city, go to private schools. And 70% of parents who send their children to government schools would send them to private schools if they could afford the modest fees of 50-500 rupees ($1-10) a month.
Facilities are basic, but cheap private schools are orderly and often teach English. Dr Bhandari’s is part of a voucher experiment run by a local think-tank: the Centre for Civil Society gives 400 randomly chosen girls a voucher to spend on a private school of their choice. The results are encouraging: “voucher children” read and do sums better than their state-school peers, and have higher aspirations. They also get more family support.
That poor parents will pay for something the state provides free speaks volumes. India’s state schools pay their teachers far more than private ones, yet they are often worse. Surveys suggest that a quarter or more of government teachers are absent at any given time. Unions prevent the authorities from disciplining slackers or rewarding good teachers.
The willingness of poor parents to pay is also a sign of something more positive: ordinary Indians’ passion for education. Slums like Brahmpuri are full of garish advertisements for makeshift computer-training colleges and English schools. (Workers who are fluent in English earn 34% more than those who are not.) Indian companies that depend on brainpower are naturally keen to nurture local brains. Firms such as Infosys have built huge training machines that convert so-so university graduates into world-class computer programmers. And social entrepreneurs are producing interesting experiments: Sugata Mitra, a physicist, put a computer in a hole in the wall of his office, which backed onto a slum, and discovered that illiterate street children could teach themselves to surf the web. “Hole in the Wall” computers are now available at hundreds of sites across the country.
Yet India is much less innovative in education than in health care. Jeff Immelt, General Electric’s boss, enthuses that “every doctor in India is an entrepreneur”. GE has made India its global centre of “low-cost innovation”. Devi Shetty, a surgeon in Bangalore, applies economies of scale to reduce the cost of heart operations by an order of magnitude. Anant Kumar has set up a chain of low-cost maternity hospitals called LifeSpring. It is hard to think of anything comparable going on in education. Private schools are tiny businesses that vary hugely in quality. Companies such as Infosys focus on university-leavers rather than younger children. Social entrepreneurs do not have the resources to spread their innovations across India, let alone globalise them.
A few local governments have tried voucher schemes. Uttarakhand, a northern state, provides vouchers worth 3,000 rupees a year for orphans and dropouts, for example. But many Indian officials view private schools with suspicion. Educational entrepreneurs must obtain dozens of licences and pass endless inspections by bribe-hungry inspectors. Health care is regulated, too, but the rules for private schools (which threaten a public monopoly) seem designed to snuff them out. The 2009 Education Act (which begins to go into effect next year) dictates the minimum size of playgrounds and the minimum level of teachers’ salaries.
Unbinding the bookworms
India’s government is far from the only one to block school reform. But countries that have given educational entrepreneurs room to innovate have benefited. Sweden, for example, allows parents to take the money the state would have spent on their children at a public school and spend it at a private one. Private schools are allowed to make profits, and companies backed by private equity are allowed to create chains of schools. Such reforms force public schools to compete. If applied in India, they would force them to stop cosseting dud teachers or else lose students to academies.
The teachers’ unions would object. But the opportunity cost of doing nothing is immense. More than half of Indians are under 25. The country will reap a colossal demographic dividend if those young brains are well-educated. But if India doesn’t shake up its failing schools, they won’t be.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – For the first time since the Taliban shot her five months ago, Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai has done what made her a target of the would-be assassins: She's gone to school.
The 15-year-old on Tuesday attended Edgbaston High School in Birmingham, England, the city in which doctors treated her after she received initial care in Pakistan, a public relations agency working with her announced.
It was her first day at school since the Taliban shot her in the head in October for campaigning for girls' education.
"I am excited that today I have achieved my dream of going back to school," Malala said, according to a release from her representatives. "I want all girls in the world to have this basic opportunity.
"I miss my classmates from Pakistan very much, but I am looking forward to meeting my teachers and making new friends here in Birmingham."
On October 9, the teenager was riding home in a school van in the Swat Valley, a Taliban stronghold in Pakistan, when masked men stopped the vehicle. They demanded that the other girls identify Malala, and when they did, the men shot Malala in the head and neck. The gunmen also shot another girl, wounding her.
Altering perceptions of women in Muslim countries
Malala improved through numerous surgeries, including two to repair her shattered skull and restore her hearing. She was walking by the time she was released from the Birmingham hospital in February.
She is continuing rehabilitation at her family's temporary home in Birmingham and is to visit the hospital occasionally for outpatient appointments.
Malala's journey from near death to recovery
Her story moved Pakistan to vow that it would more vigorously fight for girls' rights and against the Taliban.
Malala gained international attention three years before she was shot, as a campaigner for girls' education in Pakistan. In 2009, she wrote a blog published by the BBC about how she wanted to go to school but was afraid.
"The Taliban have repeatedly targeted schools in Swat," she wrote.
About that time, the Taliban issued a formal edict, which covered her home in the Swat Valley, banning all girls from schools. On the blog, Malala praised her father, who was operating one of the few schools that would go on to defy that order. She started giving interviews with news outlets, including CNN.
"I have the right of education," she said in a 2011 interview with CNN. "I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up."-www.shafaqna.com/English